Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Namesake of Brantley County, Ga.

Nearly every county in Georgia is named after a president, state-wide elected official, Indian chief, military officer/hero, physician, or lawyer. This is a story of a self-made man who was honored by the state of Georgia, which named one of its last counties in his honor. On August 14, 1920, the new county of Brantley was created and named in honor of one of Pierce County's founding fathers and leading citizens, Benjamin D. Brantley (formerly of Laurens County.) Brantley County was carved out of the larger counties of Pierce, Wayne, and Charlton. Brantley joined Gov. George M. Troup and James Walker Fannin as the only Laurens Countians to have Georgia counties named in their honor.

Benjamin Daniel Brantley was born on January 14, 1832 in Laurens County, a son of Benjamin Brantley and Elizabeth Daniel. Brantley's family came to Laurens County from North Carolina. His mother grew up in Laurens County. Born into a somewhat meager existence, his life was forever changed by the death of his father when Benjamin was only a few weeks old. Benjamin was originally born with the name of Joseph, in honor of his paternal grandfather. His name was changed to Benjamin Daniel in honor of his father and his mother's maiden name.

About five years after Benjamin Brantley's death, Mrs. Brantley and her three children moved to Montgomery County. Benjamin spent his early years working on the farm and learning the value of hard work. As he approached manhood, Brantley followed his brother William to Ware County where he worked as a clerk in his brother's store. Benjamin's sister married Judge John McRae, the founder of Alamo, Georgia. Benjamin married Jennette McRae, daughter of Christopher and Christian McCrimmon McRae. To this marriage were born seven children: Christian, Margaret, William, Archibald, Benjamin, John, and Jeanette.

Benjamin Brantley moved to Blackshear in Pierce County in 1857. He entered into a business partnership with Alex Douglas under the firm name of Brantley and Douglas. Brantley wisely got in on the ground floor in Blackshear just before the railroad came and established the town as a regional trading center. Brantley enlisted in the 4th Georgia Cavalry during the Civil War. He resigned from the service in 1864 when he was elected Clerk of the Superior Court of Pierce County for one four-year term.

In 1870, he entered into a new partnership under the name of Brantley and Company with William Sessions, Judge of the Brunswick Circuit. In 1873, Brantley was elected to represent Pierce County in the Georgia legislature. He served as County Treasurer, for eighteen years beginning in 1876. After Judge Sessions moved to Marietta and left the firm in 1878, Benjamin Brantley went into business with his sons, William and Archibald. William was admitted to the bar and Benjamin, Jr. took his place. The firm conducted business under the name of the A.P. Brantley Company. The company was a diversified one, conducting a bank, an oil mill, a tobacco warehouse, a potato warehouse, a cotton gin, a fertilizer plant, a general store, and several large farms.

Benjamin Daniel Brantley died at his home in Blackshear, Georgia on March 18, 1891. Interestingly, his home town was named in honor of the venerable Gen. David Blackshear of Laurens County. Benjamin Brantley, with only a meager education, knew the value of agriculture and timber in his community. He built and operated the first turpentine still in Pierce County. He was also a leader in the industrial, religious, and educational progress of his county. He was known to be a man of outstanding man of moral character - never drinking or smoking and never knowing one playing card from the other. Just what accomplishments Brantley would have made to his county had he lived beyond his 59 years will never be known.

William Gordon Brantley, son of Benjamin D. Brantley, graduated from the University of Georgia. He studied law in the office of former Congressman, John C. Nichols. At the age of twenty two, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. He grew a mustache to make him look older and shaved it off after the election. After two terms, the young Brantley was elected to the State Senate and at the age of twenty six, was elected its president. He served as Solicitor General of the Brunswick Circuit for eight years.

In 1896, William G. Brantley was elected to the United States Congress from the old 11th District and served for sixteen years without opposition until 1913.  William Brantley served on the powerful Judiciary and Ways & Means Committees.

Cong. Brantley was instrumental in the building of the brick post office on East Madison Street in Dublin and in improvements made to Georgia's rivers, including the improvement of the navigation of the Oconee River.

William Brantley left the Congress in 1913 to set up a private law practice in Atlanta. Washington remained in Brantley's blood and after a short stay in Georgia, he returned to the capital city. Brantley became associated with the Federal evaluation of southern railroads. He also served as vice president and general counsel of the Fruit Growers Express Company and the Burlington Express Company. W.G. Brantley died in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 1934. His body was returned home for burial in Blackshear. Among the wreaths of flowers was one sent by Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The story of Benjamin Daniel Brantley and his son, William Gordon Brantley, is one which has been lost to those of us in Laurens County, but which has become an important part of the histories of Pierce and  Brantley Counties. Benjamin Brantley was justly honored by our state. He represented all of those men and women who dedicated their lives to the development of our state following the Civil War.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Sheriff Ira Edwards, Jr. was born in Dublin, Georgia to the proud parents of the Reverend and Mrs. Ira Edwards, Sr. He is the seventh child of eight siblings and is a graduate of the University of Georgia where he received his B.S. Degree in Sociology with a focus in Criminal Studies. He received his Masters in Public Administration at Columbus State University and is a graduate of the National Sheriff s’ Institute where he was nominated class president. He is a graduate of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and also an Executive Certified Instructor for the National Sheriffs’ Association Homeland Security. Sheriff Edwards is a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society and the Grand Boule Delta Chapter Sigma Pi Phi.

Sheriff Edwards is a 23-year law enforcement veteran, beginning his career with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office in 1985. He would later transfer to the City of Athens Police Department where he served until he was elected as the first African American Sheriff of Clarke County. He also became the first African American to win a county- wide election in Clarke County. He is now serving his third term as Sheriff of Clarke County. One of Sheriff Edwards’ proudest accomplishments was when the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office became the recipient of the 2007 State of Georgia Law Enforcement Certification, becoming the 10th Sheriff’s Office in the State of Georgia to receive this prestigious award. This milestone was the first time in history for the Clarke County Sheriffs’ Office.

Sheriff Edwards has served in many capacities as a community servant and leader. Some of these capacities include: Co-hosted 2007 & 2008 Community Event, “Evening of Inspiration & Hope”, featuring renown speakers, Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Wintley Phipps; Hosted 2002 & 2006 State D.A.R.E. Conference; Host annual Sheriff Edwards’ Charity Ride for youth; Clarke County School District Adopt a School Partnership; Boy’s Book Club Partnership with UGA Basketball Team and Fowler Drive Elementary School; and motivational speaker for youth groups.

Sheriff Edwards has served on several committees on a local, state, and national level. Some of these committees include: 2008 Appointee to the D.A.R.E. International Executive Law Enforcement Advisory Board, Chairman for the National Sheriffs’ Association Chaplain’s Committee, Board Member and Past President for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, President for Peace Officers for Christ of N.E. Georgia, Board Member for the Domestic Task Force, and Executive Board Member for the Boy Scouts of N.E. Georgia.

Sheriff Edwards is happily married to Teresa Pearson Edwards of 25 years and have three children: Lamar, Brandon, and Jasmine. He is also an ordained Elder at Timothy Baptist Church here in Athens.

From Athens-Clarke County Sheriff's website.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


FFA Feature

@FFA New Horizons

Regina Holliday
Meet the 2008-09 Southern Region Vice President

May 2009

Regina Holliday loves animal agriculture. A native of Dublin, Ga., she began showing beef cattle at an early age. When she joined FFA in ninth grade, beef quickly became the focus of her supervised agricultural experience program, and it’s continued to grow. Regina’s career goal is to finish her undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia and eventually become a veterinarian. But for now, she’s enjoying her year traveling the country as the National FFA Southern Region Vice President. Learn more about Regina.

Q What is your favorite part about being a college student?

A I love life at the University of Georgia! The best part about being a college student is getting to meet new people. Trust me; in a lecture hall of more than 400 students, you meet somebody new every day! Really, I was afraid of not being around people who were familiar to me. You get to college and you meet so many people that have the same interests as you. If you ever need a study buddy or just need a friend, you are certain to find somebody.

Q Why should FFA members consider joining Collegiate FFA after they finish high school?

A Collegiate FFA is a great way to continue involvement in such a great organization. You may go to schools outside of your state, but you continue to work with individuals who have the same belief in agriculture. Plus, it helps give you a heads up on what is going and how we as agriculturalists can help educate people on things that affect our everyday lives.

Q Animal agriculture is under attack by a lot of organizations. As a beef cattle producer and FFA member, what do you tell people when asked about our nation’s food supply and its safety?

A We have one of the safest – if not the safest – food supply in the world. Quite often, people don’t fully understand the issues in agriculture, so it’s important to educate people about our industry. That education starts as FFA members in our local communities and can even extend to our collegiate careers and beyond.

Q A lot of other FFA members, like you, want to become veterinarians. What steps are you taking to prepare yourself for this career?

A I have realized the important of maintaining good grades, so studying is a must for me. The average GPA to get into vet school is a 3.8, so I have to hit the books! I also think it is important to build relationships with faculty and staff at your college or university. My advisor at UGA has been instrumental in helping me take the required courses and developing a plan of action so that I can go into vet school. And when in doubt about something, just ask.

Q Do you have a quote or saying you live by or that fits what you are currently experiencing as a national officer?

A I don’t think there are really words to describe the opportunities and the experiences of this year. Probably one of the phrases I’ve written a lot about in my journal is, “Do what you love, love what you do.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

KARL SLOVER - Back on Stage

Karl Slover has spent most of his 91 years as a movie star.  Seventy years ago at the pinnacle of his career, Karl Slover went virtually unnoticed in a newly released movie from MGM.  The movie, The Wizard Oz, based on novels by L. Frank Baum is considered one of the most endearing films of all time.  Last Saturday night at theater Dublin, one can see why. 

When the film premiered at Graumann's Chinese Theater in August 1939, hardly anyone noticed Karl among the one hundred and twenty five other midgets and children playing Munchkins.  It wasn't until fifty years later, when Karl, a resident of the Sheridan in Dublin,  and his fellow Munchkins were accorded the fame they so richly deserved , a recognition which climaxed with the placing of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2007.

Karl had spent the earlier part of the day at Market on Madison signing autographs and having his picture taken with sixty year old fans and some nervous toddlers.  Tim Herrington and his daughter Heather, cultivators of prize winning day lillies,  stopped by to meet Karl and have him sign a photograph of one of their best varieties of Oz themed lillies.

The event was organized by Kathy Jones, Dublin Main Street director, to coincide with the performance of the play by the Emerald City Character Company at Theater Dublin.  The days activities included some of characters of the cast and carriage ride on a horse of a different color.

Before the last of three performances of the play directed by ECCC director, Chris Ikner, Karl was back at his card table signing and posing.  When the lights came up on the brilliantly decorated set of Munchkinland,  some eyes turned to Karl as he sat on the front of his seat, smiling and remembering the months seven decades ago when he was on a sound stage in Hollywood playing the role of the first trumpeter, a sleepy head, a soldier and one of the Munchkins who guided Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road.

After the cast of local actors took their well deserved bows, Karl was honored with the presentation of one of posters for the event and  invited to lead the four hundred plus members of the audience and ensemble in singing "We're Off To See The Wizard." Karl commented, "It was wonderful to see those kids on the stage playing the part I once did."

Friday, September 4, 2009


Twiggs County Farm Boy Does Well

James Milton Smith, Jr. was born in Twiggs County, Georgia on October 24, 1823. Smith grew up in on the family farm, where he learned to plant cotton and corn. As a young man, Smith became proficient in the art of black smithing. Many thought he was the best "smithy" in the area. Smith attended school at Culloden in Monroe County. Smith became infatuated with the law and set out to make it his life's profession. At the age of twenty three, Smith was admitted to the bar, moved to Thomaston, and set up a successful practice. In his first try for political office, Smith lost the congressional election of 1855.

When the War Between the States broke out in 1861, Smith was elected Captain of D of the 13th Georgia Infantry, the Upson County Volunteers, on July 8, 1861. That same day, Capt. Smith was elected as Major of the regiment. On February 1, 1862, Maj. Smith was elected Lt. Colonel of the 13th Georgia Infantry. On the second day of the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, Virginia, Lt. Col. Smith received a severe wound at Cold Harbor, Virginia. During Lee's push to the north in September of 1862, Col. Smith and his regiment became heavily engaged in the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam.) That day, September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest in the history of our country. Over 22,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured. One of those killed was Col. Marcellus Douglas commanding the 13th Georgia Infantry. The Brigade commander promoted James Smith to Colonel on the battlefield. Smith resigned his commission on December 14, 1863 due to his disability. Colonel Smith was elected to the Confederate Congress and served from May of 1864 until the end of the war.

After the war Smith returned home and formed a law partnership with Peter W. Alexander in Columbus. Smith spoke out publicly against the reconstruction policies of the Federal government. Smith, at the urging of many of his friends, decided to enter the political ring in 1870. This time he was successful. As the new state representative from Muscogee County, he quickly rose to the leadership of the house. In December of 1871, Rep. Smith was elected as Speaker of the House, garnering 135 out of 157 votes.

Gov. Rufus Brown Bullock's resignation left the office of Governor vacant. Smith, the new leader of the Democrats, was chosen to run in a special election. When the Republican candidate dropped out of the race, Smith became Governor with no opposition.

Gov. Smith entered office after the tumultuous years of Reconstruction. State finances were in shambles. The Governor instituted a policy of fiscal conservatism. The state's credit rating was increased and when Smith left office there was a surplus in the treasury. One of Smith's attributes was his ability to choose men of outstanding ability. Among those were school superintendent Gustavas J. Orr, and Supreme Court justices James Jackson and Logan Bleckley. In 1872, Gov. Smith was elected to serve a full four-year term.

During Smith's term as governor, new government agencies to aid Georgia farmers were created. The Agriculture School at the University of Georgia was established. In 1874, the Agriculture and Geology departments were created.

In 1877, Gov. Smith ran for the Senate of the United States. With the backing of former Civil War era governor, Joseph E. Brown, and Gen. John B. Gordon, Smith had a good chance. Smith bowed out of the race in favor of Benjamin Harvey Hill. As a sort of consolation prize, Col. Colquitt appointed James Smith as the first chairman of the Railroad Commission in 1879. Commissioner Smith served a six-year term and returned to his law practice in Columbus.

In May of 1887, James Smith was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, by his good friend, Gov. John B. Gordon. Smith left his lucrative practice to take the office of Superior Court Judge, a position of great honor. Smith was elected to a four year term in the 1888 election. Judge Smith suffered a stroke in 1890 and died on November 25, 1890 after a long illness. Gov. Smith was buried in the Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville, Georgia, beside of his first wife, Hester Ann Brown Smith.

Gov. Smith was criticized by many for his association with the "Bourbon" faction of Georgia politics. While he did agree with the Bourbons, Smith did not practice all of their policies, especially the economic ones. Gov. Smith held strong opinions and often expressed them. His outspokenness was often resented, but overall, he was a popular governor of Georgia in its "Coming of Out The Dark Period." The Atlanta Constitution" described Gov. Smith as "one of the boldest and most fearless men in the history of Georgia."